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‘Detective Touré’ Creators David Pérez Sañudo and Carlos Vila Sexto on the Kind of Hero Spain Has Never Seen: ‘He Has to Deal With Things Colombo Never Had To’

David Pérez Sañudo (“Ane is Missing”) and Carlos Vila Sexto (“Motivos Personales”) are ready for a different kind of hero in “Detective Touré.”

A six-episode series, backed by Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, Detective Touré AIE, Tornasol Media, DeAPlaneta and Basque state TV EITB, the series is based on stories by Jon Arretxe.

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The series first caught attention when selected as a project at Series Mania’s 2022 Co-Pro Pitching Sessions. Sneak-peaked at Content Americas in January, it was one of the highlights at its Spain Content Goldmine.

Set in Bilbao’s neighborhood San Francisco, it sees an immigrant from Guinea – with acute skills of deduction – who becomes immersed in a complex investigation, with the Nigerian mafia on his trail.

“We are used to having police officers involved in these kinds of shows, but an illegal immigrant? That’s something we have never seen before, at least in Spain,” says Vila Sexto.

“Producers Elena Bort and Mariela Besuievsky were the ones who found Jon’s books and fell in love with the character. They wanted to tell a detective story, but these stories are only as good as their detectives.”

Written by Flora González Villanueva, it’s directed by Esteban Crespo and Violeta Salama. Unax Ugalde, “Money Heist’s” Itziar Ituño, Loreto Mauleón, Itsaso Arana and Urko Olazabal star, with Malcolm Treviño-Sitté tapped as the ever-hopeful lead.

“Mahmoud Touré never loses his smile. That’s what’s most appealing to me: His sense of humor, his positivity towards people and life. He starts the series as a street-level conman, but that’s not who he really is. He is a family man, an honest man, but in the wrong time and the wrong place,” says Vila Sexto.

“He fights for his family to be together again and never surrenders to other distractions. He is a hero who desperately tries not to be one. That’s who real heroes are.”

“It’s evident the series offers something totally different. There is this mixture of genres, which certainly isn’t common, and – most importantly – for the first time in the history of free-to-air television in Spain, the protagonist is a Black protagonist,” adds David Pérez Sañudo.

“When we started to talk about adapting Jon Arretxe’s novels, it was clear to me that the main character was the driving force of the story. We all shared that feeling.”

The duo set out to make the show’s subplots “as real as possible,” underlines Vila Sexto.

“We had help from Jon, who lived in the San Francisco neighborhood for over a year in order to write the first book of the series, and Lucía and Marra: two very well-known and respected members of the African community in Bilbao. The real Mahmoud Touré did actually exist. Jon met him during one of his journeys through Africa. Though, as far as I know, the only thing he kept from him was his actual name.”

Their approach was based on observation, dialogue and listening to other people’s advice, notes Pérez Sañudo.

“We are very aware of our own reality, which is far removed from the lives of many of these characters. Still, we’ve tried our best to make sure that the color of their skin doesn’t define who they are.”

Combining serious subjects with entertainment was hard. But not that hard, says Vila Sexto.

“We had comedy on our side! In comedy, everything’s possible. Think about Charlie Chaplin, Roberto Benigni or even Taika Waititi. They all talked about the most horrifying subjects and managed to get a smile out of the audience while doing it. Touré is the first person to laugh at his struggles caused by his race, lack of money and lack of luck.”

Investigating small, strange neighborhood crimes police never pays any attention to, he angers the Nigerian mob, also operating in Bilbao. Soon, Touré – as well as his family and friends – find themselves in grave danger.

“Because he won’t let go! He can’t look the other way,” says Vila Sexto.

“When you write a mystery, your ‘TV mind’ travels back to Colombo, Jessica Fletcher or, in my case, ‘Los misterios de Laura’ [which he co-created]. But Touré has an identity of his own. He’s very different because his circumstances are exceptional. He has to deal with things Colombo never had to.”

“He has to survive in a strange city, in a strange country, among people who don’t trust him because of his skin color. Also, he’s not a detective. He has no connection to that world whatsoever and doesn’t even want to! He keeps saying ‘I’m no detective’ until the last scene of the first season.”

David Pérez Sañudo adds: “We are consciously playing with the familiar attributes of noir and this figure of a detective. But in this case, it’s altered, as if it was a portrait of a detective who doesn’t take himself seriously. Beyond the tension and the mysteries, the series expands when we dare to flirt with the ridiculous and the grotesque.”

“You are going to root for him from the beginning, because instead of focusing on the crime, he focuses on the victims. This is not his job; he doesn’t even make money out of it. It’s just the right thing to do,” observes his collaborator.

“We have a unique detective – who is not actually a detective – in a unique location, surrounded by characters we are not used to having in our [local] TV shows. As a creator, that’s what you bring to the table: Things you have never seen before.”

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